Aronofsky’s work is not for the impatient, neither does he expect everyone to come on board (even if he is making Noah), but after Requiem for a Dream, Mother! has become my favourite work by the filmmaker. He brings us themes galore: writer’s block, the ever parasitical artist, a poet’s life, masculinity weaved in with patriarchy, existentialism, our degrading mother Earth ravaged by war, climate change and mostly humanity. Mother! is everything and just a simple statement of fact of who we are as people.
Aronofsky’s protagonist, played by actor Jennifer Lawrence, has a complex role to play in the film. With the burden of the Earth weighing on her shoulders, Lawrence does quite well. I don’t have too many words of critique for her, my only problem with her was repeated emotions. I felt that while she embodied (very effectively for the most part) the grace and the tolerance of Mother Earth, her reprisal of intruders into her home came with monotonic responses and words like ‘leave my home’ and ‘what are you doing here’? I would have expected a bit more range from a protagonist. She welcomes you into her idyllic-seeming home with the tranquil warmth of a mid-summer day, but the grass in her meadow grows rowdy pretty quickly and there is an early interruption to her expected picture perfection.
Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer play the perfect intruders. They lead a charge of ‘outsiders’ who come to seek refuge, then take, and finally pillage anything and everything they can. It’s not what they do really, but the mere presence of Pfeiffer, who gives Lawrence the stare of death, makes her silence worth a million words. There is death, blood, and mind-numbing violence in the second half, but making Lawrence’s offspring the main course of a tragic feast makes Mother! veer into gruesome territory. But then such is the feast we perpetually seem to be invited to, in how we engage with our mother planet…
The allegory that is Mother!, is about the bleeding Earth and of the perpetually exploited. The one panting for breath, Mother Earth is both mother and muse, she is both the bearer of life and nurturer. She is also the one that is pillaged. The metaphor, though obvious and simple, is told in a complex web of emotional meanderings that evoked feelings from the depth of my memories and psyche.
While Aronofsky uses the perfect vehicle to tell a story of such angst and pain through the catalyst of a struggling poet/artist, when the writer’s block passes, we don’t see or hear a single verse from this poet. I can’t imagine that poetry wouldn’t have added to the violent tragedy that is the human species.
The poet, Javier Bardem, plays the perfect patriarch, the all-consuming artist, the one who puts nothing before his art. He is brooding and generous, he is flippant and intense. While the narrative leans heavily towards Lawrence, Bardem compliments her well and with utmost sincerity. The one scene that will forever stay with me is when he walks through the burnt down edifice that is humanity, with a charred mother in his arms, and she asks him who he is and he casually, in a matter of fact way, responds ‘I’.
The claustrophobia of the close ups, the few frames of the gothic mansion and the intricate, pale surroundings that the mother and the poet inhabit, make every frame cling to you like a pastel memory. Mother! isn’t just food for thought; it’s meant to be a window into our souls and that of our home, with perhaps the hope of an impossible awakening.
Mother! is now playing in theatres.